Razorback (1984)

This was another of those flicks from my youth where I vividly remember noticing the creepy box art on the shelves of the local VIDEO store, but never had the chance to actually see. In one respect, even then, I thought that the idea of a monster boar was both silly and unsettling, unsettling because I lived on my families hobby farm for nearly a decade and was well aware of how intimidating certain ‘farm yard’ animals COULD be. I do understand that there is a difference between your average farm yard pig and a full-sized (or in this case, mutant) wild boar, but you get the idea.
The story here first follows an American activist/journalist as she makes her way to the Australian outback to report on a reputed kangaroo slaughter. Along the way, she encounters a vengeful old man with a thirst for some boar killin and a pair of Mad Max-like dipshits who run an illegal pet food factory/slaughterhouse. After running afoul of these two idiots, she barely escapes unraped and unmurdered…only to find herself violently face to face with essentially ‘Jaws’ of The Outback. Back in the US, her blandly good-looking husband learns of her sudden disappearance and heads ‘down under’ to investigate. Knowing VERY little about this film, I was pleasantly surprised by the slick styling of it. The visual aesthetic is crammed with some effective ‘wide angle’ cinematography and vibrant use of light, smoke and shadow. There’s also some trippy hallucination footage that lends a dream-like quality to the tension. As for the Razorback itself, much respect goes to director Russell Mulcahy for his choice to use a ‘less is more’ motif while incorporating a rather intimidating puppet for the close-ups. This vicious bastard is mean and ugly, and is certainly NOT something that I’d want to find either under my bed OR in a dark alley. Speaking of vicious, this friggin Boar From Hell is a nasty force to be reckoned with, much like the merciless Great White from Jaws (1975), right down to it’s penchant for nibbling on children.
‘Razorback’ opens with an old man watching helplessly as the boar literally smashes a path right through the middle of his house to violently carry off the poor guys sleeping 2 year old grandson. It was a disconcerting opening scene that culminated in a cool shot of the sobbing senior stumbling away from his burning house, in the dark, as we can hear the doomed child shrieking in the darkened distance. (shivers) There were moments later on where the movie lightened up NEARLY a little more than it needed to, especially where the small-town inhabitants were concerned. This flick really plays up the ‘ Oh, those wacky Outback Aussies’ angle, making a good number of them nothing more than ignorant and dumb caricatures. Speaking of dumb caricatures, the main character, the dopey American guy, was a blatantly poor casting decision, whoever the actor was. I couldn’t get too invested in his plight as his confused presence and his OBVIOUS attempt at acting grated on me. Luckily, for a good chunk of the flick, he was teamed up with an absolutely sexy Aussie ‘sheila’ who brought a bit of a spark to her thin character. Where he was clearly trying to remember everything from Acting Class, this chick brought a nice energy to her ‘boar-tracking assistant to the vengeful old man’ character.
One thing that must be mentioned about Razorback is that there is a lot of imagery dedicated to dead animals, nearly revoltingly so. A good number of scenes are punctuated by the presence of LOTS of dead kangaroo and boar parts, especially in scenes taking place at the pet food cannery. The cannery itself is a nightmare setting, all skinned bodies and ominous lighting, that Freddy Krueger would’ve been happy hanging out in. Concerning this setting, I do wish that they hadn’t been quite so stingy when it came to the razorback getting its gruesome comeuppance (um…spoiler?). This was one area where the pacing of the scene and the overabundance of steam and strobey lighting effects hid TOO much. After what this beast had wrought on it’s victims (and some deserving targets) I think that the audience should’ve been rewarded with a lil more ‘SPLAT!’ But…whatever.
In a nutshell, ‘Razorback’ is a surprisingly slick riff on the Nature Run Amok theme that stumbles from some wooden acting, refinement-worthy pacing and a scattering of unnecessarily cartoonish characters and sequences. Still, it was far more entertaining than I was expecting. If you get a hankering for an 80s monster thriller that was intent on capitalizing on Americas ‘early to mid 80s’ fascination was all things Australian, this is a good lil ‘time waster’ for YOU!

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